Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Clash Of Civilizations?

I am shedding some "lyte" on tolerance. I just finished reading "No god but God" by Reza Aslan. It is a great book that traces the history of Islam. I learned a lot. What struck me most is that the Quran, like the Torah and the New Testament, is a remarkably tolerant document. So it begs the question, why are we still fighting?

I thought fundamentalists were the purists of their faith. That they yearned for a faith that adhered to the their sacred texts. But apparently not. All three of the monotheists' screeds counsel peace and protection of the poor and underprivledged. Just as our world views have evolved; if you examine the three books chronologically, you will see an ever increasing call for tolerance.

The Quran is remarkable in that it not only recognizes the Jews and the Christians, it embraces them as "People of the Book". No where does it call for the wholesale slaughter of fellow monotheists, but does take a hard line against polytheism. Just like the Torah and the New Testament, the Quran has been subjected to interpretation, and that's where we find intolerance creeping in to pervert the original message.

I learned that the hijab was originally intended for Muhammed's wives, not all women of the Muslim faith. That in its early incarnations, Islam practiced the separation of church and state. I learned the differences between Sunni, Shiite, and Sufi Muslims.

I found out that our country helped promote the Wahhabism, the radical, fundamental Islam that helped give birth to al Queda. That we gave Osama Bin Ladin money, guns, and training. That we armed Saddam Hussein with biological and chemical weapons to fight Iran.

I read that most of the current conflict between the Middle East and the West has its roots in colonialism. That because of our efforts to control these countries and, more importantly, their resources, we sowed the seeds that have blossomed full flower into acts of terrorism.

To be clear, I am not justifying terrorism. But how can we hope to defeat it when we don't owe up to our role in creating the environments in which it can grow?

All in all, this book made me a more informed citizen. I now understand that it is not our religion that divides us, we all believe in the same God. It is our politics. And for that, there is no easy solution. After all, we can not even get our own political parties to work together. But it begs the question, why not? What purpose is being served by constant conflict?

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